The Firm: Volume 1: Body Sculpting Basics

Susan Harris
Year Released: 1986

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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I don't even know if people check this site anymore, let alone read reviews for a workout created 30 years ago, but maybe there are other strange young people like me who grew up with moms that owned Firm videos and actively use and adore them. My mom had all six on VHS when I was a kid, and being an early riser all my life, I used to wake up when she did and watch her do the tapes. Somehow it didn't bore me. I would sit and watch the screen, and then watch my mom struggle through and occasionally smile at me when our eyes met. I've always been into working out, and I began to do it in earnest starting at age 12. Back then it was for mostly problematic reasons based in needless insecurity (I've never been overweight my whole life, but 12-16 year old me would've told you otherwise. She was a silly girl.), but it's a useful habit I now embrace primarily for my overall wellbeing. Now I'm 22. I'm in shape. And being able to do this workout with full weight is my metric for determining how in shape I am. Seriously. It's THAT good. Whenever I came home on break from a semester of late nights, little sleep, and belly full with the ghosts of Domino's Pizza past, I knew to get back into form I could simply combine classic Firm workouts with running and a sensible diet and have baby abs in 2 weeks, it's that easy (for me personally, a mesomorph with a high functioning metabolism). Now I've graduated and have my own place, this is still amazing.

If you are on a budget, have no fear. From FitnessFavorites, the DVD is $19.99. The cost of equipment is about $40 plus shipping (I don't use the 2x4, but getting wood cut from Lowe's is super cheap if you want it) for a set of 3, 5 and 8 pound weights. I have yet to do this workout with ankle weights (lol I'd die) but those I imagine wouldn't cost you more than $10, for 2-5 lbs each. The space required is super minimal, you could do the whole thing fully on a yoga mat. It's about an hour, so you will have to make time for it, but it's so worth it. You'd probably spend an hour getting to the gym, doing a 30-40 min workout and getting back home, so you may as well stay home and fill your travel minutes with exercise and save on the gym membership. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Just a thought.

As for the workout itself, you definitely should do it without weights or if you must with light weights first. It is HARD, especially if you make it through the whole tape. Like I said, I still haven't done this workout with ankle weights and I've had in my workout regimen for about 6 years now. I'm no bodybuilder, but I'm pretty strong so that's saying something. If you are new to working out and weight lifting, I would advise you train with someone who knows proper form so you can self correct as you perform the moves on this tape, since some are just not OK anymore. There is a point right before the first weight work section where she rolls up while holding heavy weights. They also squat incorrectly. I think those are the only issues with form throughout the tape, there may be some more. Again, if you've been working out at least a little bit, you should know how simple moves are performed and common safety rules.

The cardio is simple running in place, nothing to write home about. Weight work is good, standing leg work is kind of tough. It can be tough keeping up with the speed of their squat routine, which could technically make it part of the cardio, but then you're also holding heavy weights. It's hard, like I said. The floor routine, jesus wept. You'll cry tears of pain, your butt will sweat tears of joy. There is an ad the Firm gym put out with Susan Harris on all fours and it says "Happy Nude Rear." They ain't playing. You can google it or look on Pinterest or something. Simple stretch; I have a personal stretch routine I do after all workouts, but the one is the video is decent enough. You may as well go all the way to the end to do their corny hip rotation dance, celebrate completing the workout!

The music and outfits are outdated blah blah blah whatever. Isn't 80's stuff cool now anyways? Pretty sure I can claim hipster status by using this thing. I'll get one of those leotards and wear it to 24 hour fitness and take a mirror selfie and put it on Instagram and get at LEAST 17 likes. My point is who cares. You're in the privacy of your apartment, do the damn tape. There is much more about it worth crying about, believe me (like the donkey kick section, you'll see. You'll FEEL.)

Instructor Comments:
Susan is an ectomorphic goddess of sunlight with a voice that can command a phalanx of squatting angels. You'll cry and she'll say "Keep going! Feel it!" and then you'll do just do the darn thing. I find the breathy, pornographic claims a little unfair, because there is no other way to sound when you're basically putting your body through hell (heaven?) and back. YOU try speaking while performing lunges ad infinitum with a smile on your face. You'll pass? That's what I thought. She cues just fine; her form is of the time but decent enough. Again, correct yourself if necessary. It's nice to know you're not the only one breaking a sweat!



Wow! What a workout. An 80s workout using WEIGHTS and CARDIO together, high production quality, great music (unlike most 80s workouts), and one that is actually SAFE.

This workout is indeed a classic and should be in every home exerciser's library.

Everybody who wants a great total body workout should try this workout. You will not be disappointed. The Firm's Aerobic Weight Training WORKS. Period.

The standing section is great because it works both the upper and lower body with weights and provides aerobic conditioning.

The floor work for the legs/glutes is tough and in my opinion, impossible. How can the cast use a heavy 10 lb. dumbbell with a 1.5 lb. ankle weight and make it through all those inner/outer thigh lifts? And not be grimacing for mercy?

Since this workout has been reviewed quite a bit, I've just added my comments.

Instructor Comments:
Susan is a great instructor and is very strong for such a thin boned body. The only negative comment I can give is that her form is awful during lunges--she strikes with the toe first and not the heel. I don't find her cues "sexy"; the reason she's panting is because she's working and working HARD!

Garrie A.


I was only 6 years old when this originally came out, but after Anna Benson's passing, people kept saying how revolutionary this workout is and how they still do it today. I saw clips and it seemed so 80's, but I like a lot of things from the '80's since it reminds me of my childhood.
I must say, even with my collection of Cathe's, Jari's and KCM, I loved this. Yes, it was cheesy, but in a good way. I even liked the "tuba fart" song. It makes me happy. This worked me out hard. Because I'm an experienced lifter, I lifted a little heavier than Susan did, and used 3 pound weight for the cardio segments. The floor work was killer and reminded me a lot of the bonus leg workout on Cardio Barre Advanced.
The downside is this started a buying frenzy as I started scouring the internet for other Benson-era Firms, and I have not be disappointed with the ones I got so far and more are on the way. I feel like I'm working out to a real collectors item with this one.

Instructor Comments:
I read online that Anna felt that Susan had a soothing voice and demeanor, and I agree, yet at the same time there is something commanding about her. I can see why she was so well liked.

Carina (riotkitty)


I am just going to add my impressions on this workout since it has already been broken down by others.

This is one of the BEST videos of all time. I am a fan of most Firm workouts, old and new, and AWT works really well for me both for weight loss and muscle sculpting. The 60 minute workout has a 30 minute standing portion (upper, lower, combined upper/lower strength, and aerobics that can be easily applied to the rebounder) and a 30 minute infamous floor work section.

The music is great, the production quality is high, and even 25 years later I feel that the exercises are safe and effective. I don’t think one could say that about the many 80s workouts. The set is obviously dated, colorful leotards, very large class (think 30 background exercisers), in the classic Firm mansion set. I understand it was a very expensive item it’s day, but now one can get the VHS dirt cheap and even the DVD is around $25 retail. I have the VHS so cannot speak to the chaptering or menu options on the DVD.

At any rate, I wanted to emphasize that this was the masterpiece of Anna Benson and a kickoff to a wonderful career. Susan is brilliant as well and it’s truly a shame that she didn’t lead more than just volumes 1 and 4. Like any Firm video, this can be modified up or down to suit your needs, but I would classify it as high intermediate if you follow Susan’s poundage. With heavy weights and ankle weights, I can make this into a low advanced workout for myself. Grade A++ (perfection)!

Instructor Comments:
Susan Harris is a great instructor, mirror cues, and gives excellent form pointers. Some people have said that she is “breathy” or “sexy” but I never found that to be so. I liked that she loses her breath and works up a sweat right there with you.

Emily B.


This is the workout that got me into aerobic weight training. A friend recommended it to me back in 1992. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done, and I remember using barely any weights. Fast forward nearly 16 years, and it's still the benchmark for all my workouts, the one to which I compare all others. Every muscle in my body gets the once over, and the floorwork is the hardest I've ever done. For those who complained about Susan's "sexy, breathy voice", the woman was out of breath! At least she could still articulate, because I lost the ability to form large words after the second lunge set. Also, I think some people don't realize the FIRM is Southern, and what they think is sexy may have been an attempt to sound less regional. Further, some folks may not have been around to remember what early gyms were like, and that they were originally the next logical step from the bar scene of the 70s. I remember attending some aerobics classes in the 80s with my high school buddies, and the FIRM is practically Puritan compared with the outfits, makeup and overt sexual overtones of those days! (Those early classes are the reason I started working out at home in the first place, to Gilad on Bodies in Motion on ESPN). Still an A+ after all these years.

Instructor Comments:
Susan gives great instruction and remains one of my favorite instructors.



I bought this tape in 1988 for $49.95 when it was one of the best exercise tapes around.
I have got into the best shape of my life with this tape, and after all these years, it still works for me!

Instructor Comments:
Susan Harris is superb in the tape. I love the soothing music. There is no loud annoying music, and Susan's sexy soothing voice makes one want to get up in the morning and exercise.
As far as people's comments about her heavy breathy style - yeah she probably is breathy, she IS exercising. Trying talking and exercising at the same time. Can you do it.
Also as some others have mentioned, if you are doing the tape for the sake of getting in shape, you don't have time to analyze the clothing, scenery, music, her crotch.
Another thought, are you gals just jealous, because you don't have her sexy body and sexy southern accent and sultry voice?
I'd like to know what you all with the negative comments look like and sound like! Probably not so hot.
You know you purchased a tape from the 80's as one person commented, so you know the style is not going to be of this time period.

This is an excellent tape and Susan Harris is a class act.
I wish she would make some more exercise tape, because there are a lot of us out there who would love to buy them.

Kim Ann


There have been many reviews on this video. I will not give a breakdown as others have already done this. The first half of the workout is aerobic and toning intervals. The toning is fairly aerobic too--lots of squats and lunges done at a quick pace. Your heart rate stays up there. The aerobics are very basic. They are also rebounder freindly. She does them with weights. She even does one set with 5 lb weights--ouch. The upper body toning is done very quickly---a little too quickly for very heavy weights. The most "killer" part of the workout was, as others have mentioned, the floorwork. It was very hard to do all the reps. I also liked the ab work even though Susan's form was not that great. The lunges and squats were done very quickly. The lunge segment was used in Standing legs. I used the Transfirmer on the incline and it made them much more doable. I would recommend this workout to intermediate and advanced exercisers who like the old Firm workouts. For those of you who have a low tolerance for "cheesiness, this is not for you. If you can get past the cheesines, however, there is an excellent workout to be found here.

Instructor Comments:
She is "old school" Firm; need I say more?

Carole R.


I know this workout is quite old, but with all the positive press it gets, I know there are still people buying it and trying it out, so I assume there's still a reason to review it!

I originally bought this video because people all over said it was the hardest FIRM video they had ever tried and I was in the mood at that point to work out as hard as possible (on the same advice, I bought Standing Legs). However, I must say that I don't find this workout to be as challenging as I expected, and I rarely find myself reaching for it (probably because of the "cardio," which is really just jogging in place, the lack of tall box work, and the fact that I find it overall to be quite boring).

First, if you get ahold of either an original copy or the BMG reissue (I'm not sure about Goodtimes's most recent reissue), you have to sit through an extended intro, with snippets of "20 Questions", plus a false start where we get to see Susan flexing and preening for the camera, followed by more hints. I admit 20 Questions is a good purchase and I might never have heard of it if not for the tape, but at this point, I find it hard enough to force myself into doing it that 5 or so minutes of FIRM ads before the workout is enough to get me to quit. Once the workout starts, the warm-up is little more than pelvic tucks and hip flexion; hardly a heart-rate elevator.

The next 20 or so minutes of weight work is quite good: the combination plie and arm work is fatiguing, as are the lunges, and I actually find that doing lunges with the arm work improves my form on the lunge and lets me go deeper for some reason. There are seemingly endless squats, with weights, with hand weights, with the board, with twists, etc. By the time the standing portion is over and it's time to hit the floor, I'm glad, but even so I still don't find it to be as intense as many other FIRMS.

The floor work is another story. As has been said, that floor legs section is absolutely impossible, and I have NO idea how the entire cast of seemingly normal people can do the entire set, WITH two sets of ankle weights and a heavy dumbbell on their thigh! I'm lucky to manage three-fourths of the reps.

The chest and bridge work is also very challenging, and the abs are very good, though traditional, and the combination oblique twists/pulleys are so fast I often feel like my form suffers.

As is the case with many FIRM workouts, the end stretch is almost laughable- though blinking won't make you miss this one entirely, if you do you'll definitely have no clue how Susan got into the next stretch. She stretches so fast, for so little time, and with so much wacky motion I still can't follow her, and I've been doing this tape for a long time.

Overall, this tape tires me out and does a good job of working most important muscle groups, but it shows its age and is generally a boring way of getting the work done. However, for strictly historical value, every true FIRM believer must have this tape. It's hard to believe this is where it all started, and that this workout encouraged hopeful exercisers to pay many many dollars in advance for the next one, but oh well. . .

Instructor Comments:
Susan Harris is truly inspiring in body and form, though she tends to round her back on some of the bent-over exercises (I noticed this especially on the tricep kickbacks last time). Her voice, cues, and the ample crotch shots to which we are treated have gotten quite a lot of comment over the years. Let me say that I like her, the voice grows on you, and, if you're doing it right, you're not even watching her for the crotch shots anyway.



I find it hard to believe that people would seriously criticize the age of this tape from the exercise clothes to Susan's voice! Gimme a break! You KNOW the age of the tape before you even buy it so what do you expect? And who in the world has time to pay attention to that stuff when she keeps you moving and sweating like a pig? Anyone who refuses to use this tape for those reasons are not interested in a good workout in my opinion.

I have been actively collecting the Firm tapes for the past 5 weeks and I'm now trying to buildup more with the classics because I don't find the newer Firm tapes (ex. Sculpting system 2) not to have much personality nor is as challenging as the older tapes.

I like volume 1 the best! Yes Susan may not have perfect form on a couple of the moves but I like the fact that she is sweating and moaning along with the rest of us, unlike Janet Jones in vol 2 (even though the workout is also challenging but not the lower body). Despite the fact that she has the unattainable figure, she is REAL and gives you a run for your money. She is a tough cookie but her workout keeps me motivated to keep going as a Firm believer, I use her tape once a week as a part of my major core exercising program.

Instructor Comments:
Susan is very imspirational and I find her to be a very warm and STRONG person who will keep you thinking (a fantasy yes but keeps you going regardless) that if you would keep doing what she is doing then you'll get remotely close to looking like her figure.



This was my very first Firm video, 2 years ago, and though I keep trading it away and reacquiring it, I don't really like it that much. I find the moves to be far too high impact for my poor knees and I honestly think that Susan Harris has it out for me!

Unlike alot of people who have problems with the Firm classics, I don't even notice the breathy voices or anything like would have been nice if Susan had worn a bra the day this was shot, but that is just a small gripe.

If you are an advanced video exerciser, who knows when and how to modify, you will really get a killer workout from this one...if you aren't, it is probably best to leave this oneon the shelf where you found it and walk away.

Cori (ziggy2306)


Since there aren't a lot of recent reviews for this tape I thought I'd throw mine in. This tape is a classic for a reason. It is a tough workout but so well put together. It's hard to believe this was the FIRM's first effort at video. If you read the FIRM for Life book they talk about some of what went into this production and how they put the workout together. I really appreciate workouts that are this well thought out - right down to the tempo of the music.

I do sometimes think that the standing weight and aerobics sections are too short, and the floorwork too long, but it is ever killer! The cardio is also on the dull side for my tastes, mostly running in place and jumping jacks, but there isn't much of it and it's over soon.

Despite this video's greatness, I can't yet bring myself to really enjoy it. It kills me every time, and I know it works so I'll continue to do it once in awhile. One of the big criticisms is that there are little or no form pointers. If you're new to weight training you might want to try something else first.

Instructor Comments:
There's something special and unique about Susan Harris. I'm looking forward to trying her more recent workouts with FitPrime.



Classic A adj 1] of the first class, of acknowledged excellence; remarkably typical; outstandingly important; made in a simple style not much affected by changes in fashion. B noun 1] A writer, artist, composer, work, or example of the first rank, acknowledged excellence, or value; the body of Greek and Latin literature; the body of literature, art, music, etc. that is considered excellent, significant or standard.

After being a member of VF for five months and riding many of the waves that introduced me to new wonderful workouts, it is a revelation that the spirit to move me to write my first review would turn out to be about The FIRM Classic Workout Series Volume #1, produced in 1986. I have many FIRM tapes lined up against the wall on an asymmetrical and freestanding clef note type of Ikea sculpture, unable to get beyond, I really want to say, it's anti-feminist packaging. I have purchased FIRM tapes, traded for them, won them in Ebay auctions, but I have never tried them. I have researched in earnest and been moved by the language and experience described by other reviewers sufficiently to collect FIRM titles, but when they arrive at my front door and I unwrap them, I am sufficiently turned off and even ashamed by the provocative gloss on the clam shell and DVD covers.

When one is sick and tired of her old ways--and sick and tired of being sick and tired—-as I was of amassing FIRM tapes that I had never even previewed, I think the perfect experience is required to make a sudden shift in one self. That shift can be ever so slight, almost imperceptible, like an adjustment in a yoga position, but it is necessary nonetheless to effect a change! Forgive the divergence; I have not yet even begun to describe the workout in this review. But I am coming to realize that one may be able to provide a clearer picture of what is being reviewed if the reviewer reviews herself, too, or, at least, if she includes herself in the review. Much of one’s attraction to or repulsion from an experience in life results from a psychological state. And although I am talking about a fitness tape only, a subject I am most passionate about, the experience here is like the title of that book by Thich Nhat Hanh: Wherever You Go There You Are. There is no place to hide from oneself in life, certainly not on the VF forum anyway. Well last night on VF I had that perfect experience, with you guessed it: Me, myself and I, and, of course, you! And in that experience I have forever changed my relationship to The FIRM.

I had been lurking on the new "Firmies, FitPrimers, Cathe Check-in (everyone welcome)." Findng myself in the company of category-free women, as I once knew myself to be, I immediately dropped my guard. I wondered, “might I possibly let my hair down when it came to the FIRM tapes so that like so many other instances in my life, I could make room for a rewarding experience that I otherwise might shut myself down from and close myself off to before it even occurs?” The softening I began to experience within myself was validated by posts on another thread, which I had actually started up: "Which Tapes Do You Consider Priceless", and the FIRM Classics once again carried their weight in gold.
Before popping in Volume #1, I first went to the reviews section of VF to read all the Volume I reviews. It was fascinating to encounter the varied experiences and points of view ranging from one that could have been written by me: “I could show it (Vol #1) to a Cultural Studies class and ask for a feminist analysis and have students writing for hours…So those were the subjective bad points. Here are the objective bad points…” The fears I had harbored for months were validated once again as I stared at the spines on my shelf. Another comment that made me grin was: “Even though it is old (Susan wears capezio shoes instead of aerobic shoes and she doesn't wear a bra, I still love it.” LOL. And how could anyone not love VF for what will turn out to be relic statements like these when we look back on video history!

So once again, I thought I knew what to expect. But nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience: This weight workout is a masterpiece! What a delightful and joyous surprise. From the moment I turned on this tape there was no other place I wanted to be than in the present moment. The clean production quality, classy setting and community of people are a visual feast for the eyes, coupled with the auditory pleasures of fabulous instrumental horn music, which I have to admit, delivered an unexpected memory dancing with an old flame in my life. The combination of fabulous attributes of this tape provides a higher quality experience than one finds in recently released DVDs. This tape truly is a classic in that it is timeless. I imagine in 100 years from now, fitness enthusiasts will still be using and talking about this little tape in the same way we invoke Greek and Latin antiquity as the benchmark in art, architecture, and literature. Certainly this is the workout that will achieve that well-proportioned physical ideal initiated by the Greeks.

Susan leads you through a 60-minute fast paced cardio workout using relatively heavy weights. The sets are short and the variety is long. So for people who constantly look at the clock in a workout as I do, Susan moves at such a fast tempo that my mind never had an opportunity to wander or set itself on anything other than the turns she was taking in a weight workout that moved at the clip of cardio. Especially during the jogging-in-place and other cardio impact work with weights, one did have to exert extra caution and summon forth one’s strength and power to avoid injury, but the adrenaline rush from the strength and power I have cultivated through cross-training among all those great tapes I have found through VF, including Lotte Berk, Bosu, Pilates and the Slim Series, I enjoyed the same excitement I imagine a skier achieves on an advanced, risky trail. Never for a split moment was I bored during this tape. My focus was the sharpest during any workout I’ve ever done, and of the caliber to which I aspire in my newly acquired yoga practice. And when we were finished, I think I raised the bar for myself in terms of what it means to sweat during a workout.

As the last review was written October 22, 1999, more than 3 ½ years ago, it struck me that it is time to connect the dots in history. The next time someone like myself stops by to read the reviews of this tape, she hopefully will not overlook Volume #1 because of the year in which it was produced nor the year in which a review of it was last written. Instead, if the seeker is fit and strong, loves to perspire during strength work but is allergic to initiating cardio on her own, she will realize that right here and right now, she is standing on gold! One need not look any further than The FIRM Volume #1: Body Sculpting Basics for a perfect full body workkout one might have been seeking a lifetime.

Instructor Comments:
Susan Harris is a master instructor, even with her human flaws and imperfections, which amounted to nothing more than arching her back when it should have been straight during a back exercise. And why should she be perfect and the production free of feminist flaw? Mt. Olympic didn’t exactly rock for Athena, Demeter or Persephone. Aren’t the human imperfections and character flaws of the Gods and Goddesses in Greek literature and mythology what render those stories timeless, universal, and meaningful today? Now I’d love to see whom Susan turned out to be 16 years later, and what type of workout she would belt out for us today. I would be fascinated with anything she might be part of.

Melanie J. Wolf


This is the first FIRM tape that i ever used and is the one that made me a Firm Believer. i really love this tape. Even though some people may say that it is cheesy, or that some of the moves are a little outdated, i still find it a very challenging tape, specially the floor toning section. It definitely is a very good workout to tone your muscles, and it requires very little equipment (dumbbells, optional ankleweights and an optional 2x4. Susan Harris is great in this workout, her cueing is great, and she is one of the best FIRM instructors ever! i highly recommend this tape.



I have volume 1,2,3 and 4 and I must admit, although I like the others, volume 1 is my favorite. Susan inspires me when she doesn't hide it when she's reaching failure. Also, her shape really inspires me to want to be in shape like that. As her voice is concerned, I think that it is feminine and soft and I think more women could learn from her on how to tone down their voices a few octaves when their indoors (myself included). The only thing I wish the firm would remind people is that there is no such thing as "spot reducing". An overweight person needs to watch their diet in order to lose the fat and see the muscle under the fat layer. So diet is even more important. See the "Body Shaping" website's Q and A section. Good luck to all you fellow excercizes. Stay motivated! It's hard work but it's definately worth it!

April Lacoursiere


Body Sculpting with weights is definitely a challenging workout for anyone. I learned a lot about form using this tape. I have been using this and other Firm tapes for 2 or 3 years now and have not tired of them. I continue to see good results and increase my stamina. I would recommend these tapes to anyone who is serious about working out.

Instructor Comments:
I think Susan Harris is excellent. I am surprised to find anyone commenting on her voice because I never noticed anything about it! In fact, most other tapes I have tried have overly perky-voiced instructors and that is far more irritating. Overall, she is such a good instructor that I am too busy trying to learn from her to notice how her voice sounds.

I give Susan an A+



I've had this video for a few years but have just now decided to submit a review after reading other's comments. I bought this video after doing the parts-series and I liked the segments taken from Vol 1, plus I wanted to expand my FIRM collection. At first, I was a little taken back by the total 80's-ness of the video: the music, the Capezio shoes Susan wears, and the "older" quality of the tape clearity. But that quickly faded when I realized how effective and challenging this video was! It really was ahead of its time. There was a rerun of a "Dallas" episode on from the mid 80's where they were doing floor aerobics - now THAT was a dated style of working out! This tape is in a totally different league.

I can understand some people's concerns regarding the safety of some of the segments in this video. If you've used enough other workout video's (especially other later FIRM videos), you will know what to modify. This may not be a great tape to get if this is your first ever workout tape to buy, though. I now know to squat with my head up to get my weights, or to not extend my knees over my toes when doing lunges. If you make the proper modifications, this is really a great workout. I have to say, it is not as aerobic as the other Firm Total Body videos (exception is Vol 5, but I always do the rewind for 25 min of aerobics). I think I clocked it at under 20 min (more like 17), even though the "aerobics end" message appears later on. I feel the aerobics have actually ended when you take your shoes off and put on your ankle weights, NOT when the message appears. To supplement, I usually do 20 minutes worth of step or floor aerobics before doing this tape. Nevertheless, this is a great strength workout, again, especially for its time!

The video starts out with a warm-up/stretch combo. You then go into a very heavy set of arm work. It's a little fast, so I usually do a slower pace with a 15lb set, rewind, and do Susan's speed with a 12lb set. You then do some traditional floor aerobics with 1.5lb hand held ankle weights. Then some squats with those weights before moving into heavier weights. There are lunges, more floor aerobics (this time with 5lb dumbells), and more upper body work with heavy weights. By the way, there is no step up box in this video. Now you move down to the floor (again, I personally feel the aerobics ends here, but they feel it ends after the pushups and one set of the floor

work). At this point you will add 2 sets of ankle weights: a set of 2.5lb and a set of 1.5 together, putting the latter on your toes. I use 1 set of 5lb. Susan begins the floor routine with pushups on weights, then moves into the first set of grueling lower body work. The second set of lower body work has you adding a free weight to your working leg. Although I am still impressed with Susan's strength as to the heavy poundage she uses for the floor work, I did realize after a few viewings that, yes, she is using a 10lb weight on her leg, but she also only has on a 1.5lb ankle weight (I believe she wears the additional 2.5lb ankle weight for the leg work that does not require a free weight). So I didn't feel so "weak" using a 5lb ankle weight with only a 6 or 7lb free weight.

At this point, get ready for some TOUGH floor work. Even if you are an experienced Standing Legs or MIS veteran, you will be challenged! Especially if you increase the free weight you use on your working leg. I admit, I always have to break right before the 30 degree leg extensions. And just when that little sector has your leg burning, you begin what I think is the hardest inner thigh work I have ever encountered! Just when I think I can increase my poundage, I am put right back in my place when I find I can not complete the segment without stoopping. Finally, the tape ends with some pec work, bridge work, and ab work. The ab work is really challenging if you use 2.5lb ankle weights.

All in all, this is a good toning tape. I use this tape on just "strength" days, too, by tacking on Upper Body or Cory's Get Hard Arms tape. Or as I mentioned above, to get more cardio, I do an aerobic tape before this one. Susan does have a whispery voice (compare to her later tapes), but I don't at all find it sexual! That's just her way of talking. The cast looks pretty updated considering this was made in 1986. In 1986, there would be no way you could get my spiked hair in camera view with out cutting it off! At least there is no "big hair" or Duran Duran looking outfits. And so what if the cast has on make-up and silly smiles? They were obviously told to! Just remember, you're doing the workout for results, not fashion pointers!

Diana mason


The music is cheesy and there is enough makeup in that room to keep Merle Norman in business for the next twenty years, but it still provides a challenging workout. I can make it as difficult as I want simply by adding more weight. There are some safety concerns with some of the movements. Beginners should beware. Experienced exercisers should, however, be able to use common sense and modify movements where necessary. The thing that keeps me coming back is the simplicity of the footwork. There is nothing worse than wasting your precious time and energy trying to figure out complicated dance manuevers. At best it is frustrating, at worst it is dangerous (especially with weights). This old favorite is what keeps me execising, even when I don't feel like.

Instructor Comments:
Susan Harris is still my favorie instructor out of the entire series. Aside from LaReine Chabut in volume 5, she is the only one who provides adequate cues. Harris' co-instructor in Volume 4, Kai ??, perfectly demonstrates this point by her inadequate if not misleading cues during her segments.Being from the south, Harris' accent does not bother me but I will concede that she is a bit breathy in her remarks. While I realize that her body is unachievable for about 90 % of the population (including me), I still find her strength inspirational.

Alicia Fromberg


This is the workout that started it all and over ten years later, it still delivers! Although I don't do it as much as I would like, I still find Vol 1 incredible tough and challenging. In my opinion, it belongs in the hall of fame!

Since most of the workout has already been described in detail in other reviews, I will just add a few of my perceptions. First, I am not sure why, but I find myself working very hard throughout the majority of this workout--in fact, I believe my heart rate stays higher than during almost every other Firm tape. The cardio segment consists primarily of running in place, jacks, and kicks. I usually modify this part of the workout--which is the--one area I really feels shows its age by jumping rope during the first running segment. The other modification I make is during the lunge and upper body segments. I simply slow the moves down because if I don't, it is difficult for me to maintain proper form.

The real strength of this workout is the lower body work. If you do not like floorwork, this tape is not for you! This section is completely done on the floor. It is killer and my muscles scream for relief by the time I'm finished (that is even without ankle weights). This section is about 26 minuges long and part of it can be found in the Firm Parts: Floor Legs. It is followed by pec flies, ab work, and a nice stretch.

Many people have commented that this tape has a high "cheese" factor and I admit I usually giggle whenever I hear the "flatulating tuba" but the last two times I've done the workout, I was concentrating and working so hard, I didn't even notice.

I would like to place one caveat on what I've said during this review. If you are new to weight training, this might not be a great choice--the new videos have more form tips and demonstrate better form. For all other video exercises, this tape delivers!!!! Its a keeper!

Instructor Comments:
Susan is terrific and is much the Firm as the Benson sisters. I wish she would make another video!!

Kathy Martinez


I thought this video was great. This is my first FIRM video, and I love it. It is easy to follow and it's an excellent workout. It makes you feel energized. I have been doing it for about 2 months and I already see a difference in my body. I can't wait to get the other ones.

The only thing I didn't like was the music, but hey all I have do to is put on a CD and I'm fine.

Instructor Comments:
I thought she was very motivating. She was actually sweating!! She looked like she was working just as hard as everyone else.



I have to write a review of one of my favorite workouts! Even though it is old (Susan wears capezio shoes instead of aerobic shoes and she doesn't wear a bra, I still love it. Time just flies when I am working out to this video. I am sweating like crazy at the end of the standing aerobic weight training section. I like jumping on my mini trampoline on the high impact section. I just jog on the trampoline and do the same arm movements that Susan does. I use heavy weights (10lb-12lb) on the squat sections and lunge sections. Susan doesn't swing the weights but does a bicep curl during the squats. She uses a 2x4 to raise your heels. The only thing I don't like is in the warmup , it doesn't do any calf stretching so I usually add Susan's stretch at the beginning of Tortoise for extra stretching. I love the music in Firm 1 too. Especially the tuba section. My kids love it too. The floor work is the toughest I've ever done. I am very sore the next day. She also does, pushups, pec flies and bridge work. She does a lot of side lifts and shoot outs. Very tough! Then she does inner thigh work. I have so much fun having Susan as an instructor. I like it how Susan doesn't hide the fact that she is getting to failure. She is sweating away and feeling the burn just as much as you. It is just a wonderfully made total body workout. It will always be one of my favorites.

Instructor Comments:
Susan Harris does well with her instructing since it was her first video. She is one of my favorite instructors. She makes me push myself harder in the workout by seeing her doing pushups on her toes and using 10lb weights on the floor work.

Mandy Lee


I feel that vol 1 is the classic of all the firm videos It really hits the problem areas. When I don't have the energy to do the other firm videos I use this one for a complete workout. Susan Harris is a great instructor

Cheryl Shouse


I rented this tape out of curiosity and did it twice. If you own the later FIRM tapes, it is interesting as a piece of history that shows how the FIRM "got started" and how far they've come since then.
I found this to be an easy-to- follow 60-minute workout. Unfortunately, I think Vol. 1 shows its age, especially in the two "aerobic" sequences, where you jog with hand weights. I question the safety of these and many other moves in the workout. (Another example: the cast lifts their weights not by squatting, but by bending over and rolling up with weights in hand!) The warm-up, which seems like nothing more than a serious of pulses and stretches, is not vigorous enough to get the muscles warm for the workout that follows, and the cool-down stretch at the end is too quick--each stretch isn't held long enough. What finally redeems this workout is the killer floor work--the leg presses, which I did with a 5 pound dumbbell to force the reps and with no ankle weights, seemed much much tougher than the floorwork in Vol. 5 with 5 pound ankle weights. I think this lower body workout is valuable, but I wouldn't buy this tape just for that.

Susan provides more instruction than later Classic volumes (2 and 5 come to mind), but she could give more pointers on proper form. She seems a little more animated than she is in Vol. 4. Clearly, she is playing to the camera here, but it really didn't bother me much.

Elaine C.


Why can't I just accept the fact that I don't like the early Firm videos? I've already given away Volumes 2 and 3, but recently bought Vol1 because I needed a change and knew a lot of people liked it. I have to say my favorite thing about the video is Susan Harris. For some reason I really like her; she comes across as very classy. I'm surprised that so many people dislike her voice. I guess that's because I live in the south and hear accents *much* more grating than hers. I can understand why someone else would like this tape, but it's just not my style. A lot of the moves with weights are kind of fast, which to me are uncomfortable at best, unsafe at worst. And everyone already knows how much I dislike all those side leg-lifts! I think I'm going to keep this tape rewinded to the ab section and use that part on my cardio days. That way I won't feel too bad about wasting my money.

Jennifer M. Blaske


Susan Harris is ok, I think there are some inconsistencies in her instructing techniques in this video.. All that aside I have had really wonderful results from doing the hip, thigh, inner thigh and ab workout on this time.
I know its old but it's still a WINNER!!

Jaal Linden


This is the tape that made me dislike the FIRM for a long time. It's 10 years old, and it shows its age. Although some people love it, it just is NOT my style of workout. I checked it out from the library (twice, to get a fair assessment), and found the music and aerobics a little silly and high impact--they just didn't seem to fit stylisically with the strength work. I think the more recent FIRM tapes are much better than this one, though I give this one credit for its longevity in this industry.



I really love the Firm. I feel I must respond to the negative comments geared toward Susan Harris. Granted, I know her voice can be irritating. Nevertheless, I have to say that Vol 1 is one of my favorite workouts. Even after several months of doing these videos, Vol 1 leaves me feeling pleasantly sore everytime. In my opinion it is a very tough, very effective workout both for its aerobic aspects and its weight training aspects. I own 11 Firm Videos and am currently receiving one a month from Time Life. Before doing the Firm, I was a vivid step addict and treadmill walker. However, nothing has given me the results that the Firm has. I see so much more definition in my arms and legs than ever, and I can actually see my stomach muscles. My clothes fit better than ever. All this combined with the remarks from other people on how "good" I look have made a Firm Believer out of me.

Sandy Martelli


Volume One really hooked me on the FIRM series. Susan Harris may have a distracting tone to her voice, but she gives easy-to-follow instructions, and uses near-perfect form.

Volume One is extremely easy to follow. Even my completely uncoordinated boyfriend can follow along easily! This does make the routine a little boring after you've learned it.

The workout provides visible results, and it's easier to make it more challenging by adding heavier dumbells. It's a great place for people who've never used weights to begin.

Christine Letsky


I can't say this is my favorite FIRM video, but it's a good workout, especially for your lower body. The first section is standing work consisting of some short high- impact aerobic routines and upper body dumbbell work. The upper-body work is faster-paced than most of the other FIRM videos, so you'll probably want lighter weights for it.

This video's strength, for me anyway, is the lower-body work. I really don't feel like my upper body has made much progress when I'm done with this one, but my buns and thighs sure feel it. I use 10-pound ankle weights for the floor work, and I have to keep stopping. One of these days I'm going to make it all the way through without even grimacing!

This is not a video I would put on my Top Ten List, but it's a good one to do on days when you don't have the energy for anything aerobically strenuous, but you want to feel like you've done something good for your body.

Annie S.


Firm one is the only tape in my collection that is "old" (about ten years old). Not only that, but I know that it will be in my collection for another 10 years. Furthermore I believe it is the only effective tape that was produced in that time. I remember doing Jane Fonda every day untill my knees and back gave out on me (I was only 14 at back then). I remember hating every minute of the Fonda tape because it was so hard on my body and I didn't notice any difference. Some people say that the music in Firm one is a little dated and the instructor and cast looks to perfect. I really don't care what the cast looks like. All I know is that after using the firm volume one for a couple of months, I began to look like one of the members of the cast (something that would have been impossible using old Jane Fonda videos) The 5 minute high impact areobic section in firm one is basic with not funny or tricky footsteps. The weight work (especially the lunge work) in this video is excellent as well. I like to think of this tape as a classic workout tape.

I really like Susan Harris. I liked her in Volume one, four and the tortise and the hare. I was upset that she wasn't in the newer workout tapes. Her cueing is great and she sounds a lot more intelligent than a lot of other video instructors.



This was the last Firm video I purchased, for only $12 I couldn't resist. When I started exercising 14 years ago with Jane Fonda tapes, and TV shows, this tape came out in 1986 for a whopping $50.00. I would not spend that kind of money on a tape, but heard so much about its difficulty and new way of working out. Since I began buying all the other Firm tapes 2 years ago, this was the last one. I have to say that I really like this tape. I do agree that some of the moves are too fast, especially with weights. But for years I did this type of exercise with no ill effects. I think Susan Harris is a master instructor. She uses 10 lbs. for those leg lifts that never end, and for those fast arm movements. She has a great deal of strength for a small-boned thin woman. I give her a lot of credit and admiration. I love the high impact aerobics and, in my opinion, the music is really good and motivating. The leg floorwork is a killer workout even after doing all those leg presses for 2 years. I was really surprised that I was not sore the next day after doing all the floorwork (maybe those leg presses really help). I am happy I got this tape and don't find it old-fashioned at all (in fact, Susan hasn't changed a bit in ten years).

maryann parker


I bought this tape years ago for $49.95. It introduced me to the FIRM and made me a FIRM believer. I had lost it over the years, and never replaced it. Instead, I bought newer FIRM tapes. I remember not caring for the tape--except for Susan Harris who remains one of my favorite instructors of all time. I bought this tape at Wal-Mart for $16.97 one week ago and have done it two times now. WOW! The leg segment left me intensely humbled! I use a 40-pound barbell for the step-up box segments on most other FIRM tapes. So I was really disappointed when I could not make it through the leg floor work with 5-pound ankle weights and a 8 pound weight! I now realize I still have far to go. I like the music on this tape. One selection is really goofy (a tuba plays one of the stupidest songs I have ever heard and this music makes everyone look as though they are extremely flatulent), but I love the rest of the music. The thing I like best about this tape is that it still contains basic body buiding moves that will never go out of style. If you are new to weighted workouts, this tape is a must have! If you have abandoned this tape for newer FIRM tapes, go back and revist it--it is a killer!
Overall Grade for this Tape: A
Grade for Susan Harris' form, instruction and strength: A+

Amy Steppe


This was my first (hesitant) Firm purchase made last year and I was pleasantly surprised. Even with the negative aspects and if you know how to correct your form, it is by far the best strength/toning type tape I have done so far. I am ALWAYS sore, but a good sore. Definite results - and that's what we're all after right??

Instructor Comments:
I agree with one reviewer who said Susan Harris voice is a little annoying and she could stand for some voice lessons. She also is off on some of her form, which, for the novice user could be damaging. However, she is a heckuva strong lady!! It will take me months if not years to get to her level. She is very inspiring in her strength and body.

Kelli Andrews


I rented this tape from Blockbuster the other day, watched it once, and did it once. Its a piece of 1980s history. I could show it to a Cultural Studies class and ask for a feminist analysis and have students writing for hours. The sexiness of Susan, her voice, her moves, the exercises, and the exercisers are played up so much it makes me uncomfortable (not because I don't like sexiness, but because I want to work out, not stare at Susan's butt!) When Susan bends at the waist and speads her legs (and she does so to pick up heavy weights!!!!) the camera's focal point is the mirror behind her, which seperates many minutes of this tape from a Hustler shot only by the thickness of the leotard between her legs.

Any other FIRM tape you've seen with slinky moves, breathy voices, or inquiring camera angles is much subdued compared to this original.

So those were the subjective bad points. Here are the objective bad points:

  • Everyone in the class, including Susan performs lunges with their knees extending over thier ankles, which hurts my knees just to look watch!
  • Susan *drops* her hand weights at one point.
  • Many of the moves include bending at the waist and then lifting up rapidly, which I doubt is safe, and unnecessary.
  • All weights are lifted off the floor with straight legs.
  • Mostly impact aerobics.
  • Oddly, after you perform leg work on one side, the message "Aerobic segment ends" appears, and then you go on the do exactly the same on the other leg. Wouldn't it end either before the first leg or after both?
  • No time to both check your pulse and take off your shoes.
  • Pulse check is repeated at very end of tape. Why would you need to after cool down and stretch?
Good points - If you modify or ignore the above absurdities, you will get this out of the workout:
  • If you are a fan of leg lifts and get good results from them, then this tape will really give it to you!
  • If you are a fan of plies and get good results from them, ditto. I'm sure anyone who does this tape often (with safety modifications) will end up with thighs and buns of steel.
  • Good intro to weight training as body sculpting, rather than body building.
This tape is primarily plies, leg lifts, and impact aerobics. Like I said, totally 80s... (which, in a twisted way, made it rather nostalgic and fun!)

Grade: C+

Instructor Comments:
Susan Harris breathes out all her cues, and sighs and moans just a little too much for my taste. Her cuing is adequate for the simple moves in this tape.